We are trendsetters here at TDG and wanted to provide you with the VERY first 2017 NCAA Tournament projection. Others will give you a "way-too-early projection" for next year but they wait till after this year's Tournament is finished. But why wait till One Shining Moment has played and this year's champ has been crowned? As Minnesota fans, we often are looking ahead to next year before the current year is even over...so why wait? Sure there are 4 teams still playing for 2016 but the other 347 are looking to next year and so are we.
To be clear, this isn't an April Fools joke. We really did try to come up with a list of viable 2017 Tourney teams. But it is a little silly to think that we could actually predict the bracket 12 months ahead of time. So take this for what it's worth.
This list was painstakingly put together with the combined efforts of myself, ZipsofAkron and Ustreet. You have no idea the kinds of hours we've spent working on this and what great pride we take in our accuracy. Mostly it was an exercise of looking at last year's more successful teams, taking a look at returners and then for the P5 conferences looking at incoming recruits.
I present you with the 2017 NCAA Tournament projection. Way too early? I think not! (we've got nothing else to do)
This region holds the Tournament's top overall seed, the Duke Blue Devils. Yup, that's right. Duke is going to be the favorite to win their second title in three years. My assumption is that Grayson Allen is coming back to go along with a great recruiting class that may have 3 of the top 10 players in the country. That formula worked for Coach K last year nabbing two of the top overall players in the 2014 class that lead him to a National Championship.
The second seed is next year's Big East conference regular season champ, the Seton Hall Pirates.
The team to look out for here is USC who gets a nice influx of talent to their already improving roster up against and could be the team upset second-seeded Seton Hall and make it to the second weekend.
Kentucky is back and the tournament's second overall seed. Recruiting plays a factor once again, but it helps that there are some returners to add that experience. This team should be dangerous once again and my bracket has them facing Duke in the title game.
And here you find your Golden Gophers getting back into the NCAA Tournament but getting a really tough draw against St. Mary's. The Gaels return their entire starting lineup from a team that won the West Coast regular season title and was snubbed by the committed when they failed to win the conference tourney. This team should be pretty good. But the Gophers are BACK BABY!
Look out for UNC-Asheville. They were Tourney participants this year and their two best players were freshmen, this could be a dangerous team in 2017 (you heard it here first).
UConn gets the top seed here and faces the North Dakota (I already forgot what their nickname is). The Huskies have a huge recruiting class coming in and return their top two scorers from this past season.
But the really interesting matchup in this first round is UCLA against New Mexico. The Bruins bring back pretty much everyone and have a top-5 recruiting class on the way. They may be underseeded but the interesting part is their matchup with New Mexico (who also may be a dangerous team), their coach's former job. The Steve Alford game could be interesting, especially as pressure mounts on Alford as the Bruin's coach.
Finally we get to Kansas as this region's top seed. I know that my 1-seeds are all blue-chip programs but it is what it is this year. The Jayhawks will lose some talent, of course, but they haven't lost the Big 12 since the 70s (unconfirmed fact) and I anticipate everyone will be back except Ellis. They are my Big 12 champ and a 1-seed once again.
I probably should have gone with Harvard out of the Ivy, considering Tommy Amaker is bringing in a ranked recruiting class (yes, a top-25 class with 4-star kids). I went with the experience of Princeton as they went 12-2 in the conference this year and return everybody. The Ivy League might be a fun one to watch next season.
Wisconsin very well may be the Big Ten's favorite and might be underseeded here. They are dropped to a 3-seed here because Zips and Ustreet both let their hate win and he left them out of the Tourney altogether and I couldn't bear to project them any higher. Might be a fun second-round rematch with Notre Dame though.
JUST MISSED THE CUT
- Penn State
Feel free to comment below with who we missed and where this bracket is way out of whack. Returners, projected early entrants and recruiting classes are easy enough to figure out. Teams with sitting transfers who will be impact players and projecting who is going to transfer out is not exactly easy to ascertain. But share your thoughts below.